Monthly Archives: March 2016

Naturalist Vincent Pinto on Spring at the Ranch

 

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Circle Z Blog – Spring
Although spring officially begins later in March, it has arrived at Circle Z – owing to the warmer climes of southeast Arizona’s Sky Islands. Despite winter rains being down a bit, many hues of green are descending upon the ranch as various native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers send out foliage. Mexican Elderberry trees are fully leafed out and poised to proffer fragrant flowers soon. A nice variety of wildflowers are in bloom along Sonoita Creek and in the surrounding grasslands and desert scrub, adding color to Circle Z’s seemingly endless, wild expanses.

Perhaps most notable among the flowering plants is a medium-sized yellow shrub, sometimes called Willow-leafed Ragwort. You’ll know it when you encounter this stream-side shrub, as it has a veritable explosion of blooms that are often covered in beautiful butterflies, as well as other native pollinators. Rich Bailowitz, who coauthored the book Finding Butterflies in Arizona, recommends Sonoita Creek as the key location for finding them in February in all of the state! Look for Texan Crescents, Pipevine Swallowtails, Fatal Metalmarks, Tiny Checkerspots, and others at this fragrant shrub in the Aster family.

Meanwhile, 2 good years of rain have allowed wildlife populations to rebound nicely in and around the ranch. Guests this season have reported countless sightings of a wide range of species. White-nosed coatis are certainly on the prowl, searching for Netleaf Hackberries and other fruits as well as for any hapless invertebrate or small vertebrate. These fascinating tropical members of the Raccoon family have their main distribution in Latin America, but infiltrate our region as one of our so-called “Mexican specialties” – species who barely infiltrate into the U.S. Adult female and young male Coatis travel in groups, while adults males – the so-called Coatimundis – go it alone, save in breeding season. Sighting Coatis and other mostly tropical wildlife is truly a thrill. In fact, staying at circle Z is akin to traveling into Mexico without crossing the border – something special and exotic to be savored! Most guests come back repeatedly and the natural environments at the ranch are certainly a key reason for this.

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Gould’s Wild Turkeys – the largest subspecies – have made a remarkable recovery at Circle Z from the days when they were over-hunted in Arizona. Flocks of up to 30 birds have been seen this winter as close as the horse corrals. Mike, who helps run the ranch, even spied one in the jaws of a hungry Mountain Lion! Speaking of whom….. Ranch owner Diana Nash took several stunning photos of Cougars this winter from the ranch. One was of a Mountain Lion lounging in a tree, while a second (from a remote wildlife camera) shows a Cougar leaping spectacularly across Sonoita Creek! Seeing wildlife at the ranch is not just hypothetical, it’s a real possibility.

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Birders at the ranch have a treat waiting for them this spring as resident birds are joined by both returning neo-tropical migrants, as well as lingering wintering birds. My recent bird tours have unveiled an average of 40 – 50 species over the course of half a day. These including some Mexican specialties, including Hepatic Tanager, Painted Redstart, Montezuma Quail, Gray Hawks, and others All of these and other birds find safe haven on the extensive conservation easements at Circle Z.

Whether you are a non-birder, beginner, or advanced birder, know that when you come to the ranch and Sonoita Creek you’ll be at one North America’s birding Meccas! When you’re at the Ranch look for free the free, weekly Nature Walk by Naturalist and Wildlife Biologist Vincent Pinto – usually on Wednesday morning prior to your ride. He’ll introduce you to the flora, fauna, and geology of the region and help you to find local wildlife. Vincent is also an expert Wilderness Survival Instructor and will share some intriguing tips during the walk. Each week he also offers either an Astronomy Program or a Full Moon Walk, depending upon the Moon’s cycle. If you would like to go beyond your rides and these free programs, then he also can be hired as your private Nature Guide for exploring the region at large.

I can honestly say that despite traveling the world in search of wildlife and adventure (Africa, Asia, Europe, South America….) my favorite places to immerse in Nature are in southeast Arizona!

Written by Vincent Pinto, naturalist at Circle Z Ranch

By |March 14th, 2016|Nature|0 Comments

Training colts with Wranglers Val and Johnny

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We take great pride in breeding and training many of our horses right here on the ranch. Getting each one to the point of being a good guest horse takes time, consistency, and patience. We rely upon our wranglers, who are expert equestrians, to work with the young horses. Two of our wranglers, Val and Johnny, are doing an exceptional job with their three-year olds: Athena, a beautiful sorrel filly, and Charles, a handsome paint gelding.

Consistency is the key when training young horses, with the majority of their early learning taking place from the ground. The trainer uses lead ropes and training halters to teach them to walk, trot, and lope on cue. Backing up, yielding the fore and hind legs, and flexing are important to teach as well. Moving their feet from the ground makes the process smoother when they are under saddle, and each horse requires a different amount of time and energy to make this happen.

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For both Val and Johnny, their horses had already been through basic ground work when they started working with them in October. Val shared her thoughts on her early days with Athena “We struggled a lot in the beginning. I had the same experience with her that I had with a lot of mares, it takes a long time to gain their respect and trust. You really have to prove yourself, and once you get it, they will give you the world. They try real hard and never give up”. At first Val’s time spent with Athena was short, often only 10 minutes, and when Athena got something right the lesson would end. The key to successful training is in building the trust and respect, so the horse knows they won’t be put in danger. “Now we get along great. She understands the cues, and what I want her to do.”

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Charles and Johnny have a trusting relationship, and Charles is often seen searching over the fence for Johnny from the day pasture. “He is super good, really calm and patient with me because this is a learning process for me too.” Johnny does not profess to be a horse trainer, yet his laid back personality and ability to be consistent is making the work with Charles go smoothly. Not much bothers Charles, and it did not take long for Johnny to have him under saddle. “Laying over him and hanging out there on his back, petting him on his butt and shoulder while laying on him. Then it was super easy to swing up and start sitting on him. We worked on flexing to each side, then started getting forward movement in there. He’s a little like me in that any work to the left is a bigger hurdle.”

It takes time for the young horses to figure out how to balance with a load on their backs, so starting them with easy walking, trotting, and working in circles helps them figure out how to move under saddle. They are also still growing and are susceptible to injury if pushed too hard. “I am a big guy, so I will probably have someone smaller lope Charles when he is ready,” Johnny said.

Val has come a long way with Athena, and she is frequently seen riding her in the large round pen. They practice working on leads, steering while in a lope, and side passing on cue. Together, she and Johnny took the two horses out on their first trail ride down the polo field, across the creek, and back to the corrals via the railroad bed. Charles spooked a little at the sound of a tree branch scraping Johnny’s hat, and Athena didn’t like the shadows of the cottonwood trees, but they’ll get used to it. With consistency and lots of miles under saddle, they will make fine trail horses for our guests.

By |March 2nd, 2016|Horse Talk|0 Comments